World News

In a bomb shelter under Kyiv, a US professor taught Ukrainian students about the art of peace

David Dowling

(NEW YORK) -- Professor David Dowling of Pepperdine University traveled last fall from California to Ukraine to teach some students of Taras Shevchenko National University a course in conflict and dispute resolution.

In a bomb shelter under Kyiv, as the war continued above them, 18 undergraduates learned the art of peace.

"Five minutes into class, the air raid sirens started," Dowling said. He added, "For the first time in my teaching career, and possibly not the last, I taught my class in a bomb shelter."

Selected on the basis of interest and English proficiency, the class was a response to the lack of mediation and negotiation in the curriculum, according to Kateryna Manetska, the program coordinator and an alumna of Taras Shevchenko.

"But now that's more important than ever, so we decided to do anything possible to make this happen," Manetska told ABC News.

For the students, this class was their first time back in person since the COVID-19 pandemic and the war began. The excitement, said Dowling, was palpable before he even embarked on a long journey from Los Angeles to Poland and finally to Kyiv, via what he called "the longest train ride in my life."

Dowling arrived on Nov. 4, after two weeks of teaching the first part of the curriculum remotely. His first class, scheduled for Nov. 6, was interrupted by the sirens going off as soon as they got started.

The students calmly led their American professor to the shelter, four floors below their designated class, through a maze of stairways and hallways.

"If they were anxious, they did not display it at all," said Dowling. "The saddest thing is that it's such a part of their life. They all kind of gathered their bags and they were like, 'Okay professor, you've got to come with us.'"

Amjad Yamin, of Save The Children, an international charity, said that Ukrainian students, especially older ones, are getting too used to the reality of war.

"They start thinking this is what normal life looks like," he said.

Yamin added that this is particularly true for the older ones, saying, "They understand very clearly. The younger ones, you can still shelter them from some things, you can tell them it's a game."

Dowling left Kyiv at 6:28 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 11. At 8 a.m. that morning, explosions were heard in the city. Still, he hopes to return soon and continue where he left off.

Tears filled his eyes as he reunited with his students on Zoom for an interview with ABC News, months after he last saw them, as the war in Ukraine that claimed tens of thousands of lives entered its third year.

"Unfortunately in Ukraine, you have only two options: You can go abroad or you can stay and just admit the fact that you can die at any second," said 21-year-old Aurika Solomakha. "I had experience working with professors from the USA before I met Mr. Dowling but really, no one dared to come to Kyiv during the war."

Dowling's trip to Kyiv meant a lot to the students, a few of them said.

"We were amazed and had an idea that there's not so many professors who are willing to come to Ukraine and teach on-site courses for our students," said Manetska.

For Mariia Nazarenko, 20, this course was more than that.

"People like him made us feel worth something," Nazarenko said.

"He gave us something useful to support our education and I will never forget it for the rest of my life," said Oleksandra Chornyi, 19. Following the class, she said scored an internship in mediation at a prestigious Ukrainian firm.

Dowling was also full of admiration and pride, saying, "These are women who are studying who are looking to make a difference in their world and in their family's lives."

The general mood in Ukraine, the students say, has become depressing or aggressive, as people wonder when will the war will end. Families have been shattered. Young people are alienated and lonely, they said.

But the class with Mr. Dowling gave them purpose and a practical skill that can create peace, they said. Or, at least, the hope it will.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Israel-Gaza live updates: Harris to meet with Israeli war Cabinet member on Monday

Luis Diaz Devesa/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- More than four months since Hamas terrorists invaded Israel on Oct. 7, the Israeli military continues its bombardment of the neighboring Gaza Strip.

The conflict, now the deadliest between the warring sides since Israel's founding in 1948, shows no signs of letting up soon and the brief cease-fire that allowed for over 100 hostages to be freed from Gaza remains a distant memory.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Mar 03, 2:10 PM
Netanyahu adviser says Israel helped coordinate US airdrops in Gaza

An adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied the US airdrops of aid in Gaza are a sign the Biden administration has lost confidence in the Israeli government’s ability or willingness to get a grip on the humanitarian crisis there.

In an interview with ABC News on Sunday, Netanyahu advisor Ophir Falk said the U.S. airdrops on Saturday were "fully coordinated with Israel."

Falk pushed back on any suggestion Israel was not letting enough aid into Gaza while children were starving to death, saying Israel "is enabling thousands of trucks to get into Gaza."

Falk denied that people are dying of starvation in Gaza, despite a statement Sunday from a UNICEF official that at least 10 children have reportedly died of malnutrition recently at a northern Gaza hospital. Some doctors working in Gaza have also reported the deaths of children as a result of malnutrition.

Falk said "maybe tens of thousands" of aid trucks have gone into Gaza since the beginning of the war in October.

"No other country would do that," Falk said.

Israel has said it is trying to prevent aid from ending up in the hands of the Hamas terrorist organization.

"We have to verify it’s not being stolen by Hamas," Falk said, something he claimed is happening "on a daily basis."

-ABC News' Tom Soufi Burridge

Mar 03, 12:09 PM
VP Harris to hold White House meeting with Israeli war Cabinet member: Official

Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with Israeli war Cabinet member Benny Gantz at the White House on Monday as part of an ongoing effort to engage with a wide range of Israeli officials on the war in Gaza, a White House official has confirmed to ABC News.

During the meeting, Harris is expected to reiterate Israel's right to defend itself in the face of threats by Hamas and the urgency of securing a hostage deal, the White House official said. Harris and Gantz are also planning to discuss the dire need to increase the aid flow into Gaza through continued U.S. airdrops and work on a maritime corridor to deliver aid directly by sea, according to the official.

While reiterating the need to reduce civilian casualties, Harris is expected to express the Biden administration's concern for the safety of the 1.5 million people reportedly taking shelter in the city of Rafah, the official said.

In their discussion of the ongoing war, Harris and Gantz are also expected to focus on "the day after the fighting ends" and plans to eventually rebuild Gaza and the Palestinian Authority so that it may govern a unified Gaza and West Bank in creating a "hopeful political horizon for the Palestinian people," the official said.

Harris previously met Gantz in 2022 at the Munich Security Conference. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will also meet with Gantz separately, according to the White House.

-ABC News' Noah Minnie

Mar 03, 11:32 AM
Malnutrition reportedly kills at least 10 children in northern Gaza: UNICEF

At least 10 children have reportedly died in recent days from dehydration and malnutrition while at a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, a UNICEF official said Sunday.

The children died at the Kamal Adwan Hospital, Adele Khodr, UNICEF's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.

"These tragic and horrific deaths are man-made, predictable and entirely preventable," Khodr said in the statement. "The widespread lack of nutritious food, safe water and medical services, a direct consequence of the impediments to access and multiple dangers facing U.N. humanitarian operations, is impacting children and mothers, hindering their ability to breastfeed their babies, especially in the northern Gaza Strip."

Khodr said the disparity in conditions in Gaza's north and south "is clear evidence that aid restrictions in the north are costing lives."

Nearly 16% of children, or one in six, under the age of 2 in the northern Gaza Strip are acutely malnourished, said Khordr, citing malnutrition screenings in January by UNICEF and the U.N. World Food Program.

Khodr said similar screenings conducted in southern Gaza found that 5% of children under 2 are acutely malnourished.

"Now, the child deaths we feared are here and are likely to rapidly increase unless the war ends and obstacles to humanitarian relief are immediately resolved," Khodr said.

Khodr's statement came a day after the U.S. Department of Defense conducted its first combined humanitarian assistance airdrop across Gaza with the Royal Jordanian Air Force.

About one-quarter of Gaza's population -- 576,000 people -- are "one step away from famine" and facing a "grave situation," Ramesh Rajasingham, director of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said last week..

-ABC News Nadine Shubailat

Mar 02, 2:57 PM
Food drop part of ‘sustained effort’ to get more aid into Gaza: CENTCOM

The U.S. Central Command provided more details on the food aid delivered into Gaza Saturday in a combined effort with the Royal Jordanian Air Force.

The U.S. C-130s dropped over 38,000 meals along the coastline of Gaza, "allowing for civilian access to the critical aid,” according to a statement.

"The DoD humanitarian airdrops contributes to ongoing U.S. government efforts to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to the people in Gaza," read the statement.

CENTCOM said this was the first aid drop into Gaza by the U.S. but plans are being made for potential "follow-on airborne aid delivery missions."

"These airdrops are part of a sustained effort to get more aid into Gaza, including by expanding the flow of aid through land corridors and routes," the statement said.

-ABC News' Anne Flaherty

Mar 02, 2:35 PM
Ceasefire deal talks underway amid plans for future Gaza aid

Hours after the U.S. Department of Defense conducted its first combined humanitarian assistance airdrop in Gaza with the Royal Jordanian Air Force, senior administration officials asserted this would be part of a sustained effort to scale up life-saving aid into Gaza and confirmed significant progress on a six-week hostage ceasefire deal currently in the hands of Hamas.

Senior administration officials said they are exploring every channel possible to get assistance into Gaza and that the Department of Defense is currently planning additional drops. However, they say their biggest obstacle is opening more avenues to get aid into Gaza, including a martine route that would deliver assistance directly by sea.

"We're looking at the land routes, we're looking at the sea route, we're looking at the air route, to really ensure that we're exploring every opportunity to get assistance in," officials said Saturday.

Officials confirmed this was the first U.S. airdrop conducted in Gaza since the war began and that U.S. and Jordanian C-130 aircraft were operated jointly out of Jordan to distribute aid.

Administration officials suggested the removal of police from the U.N. and other humanitarian convoys has exacerbated the lawlessness already prevalent in the region as gangs allegedly take and resell aid. Officials said the way to address this problem is by flooding the market with aid to discourage the commercialization of assistance.

Officials said a ceasefire is essential for the distribution of life-saving aid throughout Gaza. A deal is on the table and in the hands of Hamas, according to officials.

Senior administration officials told reporters there would be a six-week ceasefire as soon as today if Hamas agreed to release a defined category of vulnerable hostages, which include the sick, elderly, and women.

When asked about the specifics of these progressions towards a ceasefire hostage deal, admin officials said they'd worked hard with the Israelis to develop a framework which the admin believes is now "in the zone of a compromise amongst all the positions that had been on the table," after several meeting in Israel last week.

Admin officials hope to have this deal in place by Ramadan, confirming significant progress has been made over the last few weeks.

"The onus right now is on Hamas, their talks still underway," a senior admin official said Saturday.

They continued, "There has been significant progress over the last few weeks. But like all things, until the deal is actually done, It's not done. The Israelis have basically signed on to the elements of the arrangement. And right now, the ball is in the court of Hamas, and we are continuing to push this as hard as we possibly can."

-ABC News' Noah Minnie

Mar 02, 10:32 AM
US dropped aid into Gaza, two officials confirm

The U.S. military has conducted food drops in Gaza authorized by President Joe Biden, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the operation.

The military is reported to have used three C-130 cargo planes from U.S. Air Forces Central Command to drop 66 parachute-strapped bundles containing about 38,000 meals over Gaza around 8 a.m. ET.

The air drop was expected to be the first of many the military planned to conduct. It came just days after many Palestinians were killed after trying to pull goods from an aid convoy.

-ABC News' Anne Flaherty

Mar 01, 3:44 PM
Biden says US to carry out airdrops of aid into Gaza in coming days

President Joe Biden on Friday said the U.S. would carry out airdrops of humanitarian aid into Gaza in the coming days.

"We need to do more, and the United States will do more,” Biden said. "In the coming days we’re going to join with our friends in Jordan and others in providing airdrops of additional food and supplies."

He said the U.S. is also looking at the possibility of a marine corridor to deliver "large amounts of humanitarian assistance," in addition to expanding land deliveries.

"We're gonna insist that Israel facilitate more trucks and more routes to get more and more people the help they need," Biden said.

"Innocent lives are on the line, and children's lives on the line," he said.

Biden called Thursday's killing of over 100 civilians waiting for aid "tragic and alarming," adding that the "loss of life is heartbreaking."

White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby said the airdrops will not be a "one and done" operation and will be the start of a "sustained effort" over the coming weeks.

"With each one, I think we'll learn more and we'll get better at them," Kirby said.

Kirby explained that it will be "extremely difficult" to conduct airdrops in a densely populated environment like Gaza.

"The biggest risk is making sure that nobody gets hurt on the ground. And so, you got to locate out areas to drop that you know will be safe for people so that they don't become victims of the drop itself," he said.

Kirby also noted that the airdrops are "not a replacement for moving things in by ground."

-ABC News' Justin Gomez

Mar 01, 11:50 AM
WHO sounds alarm over Gaza as 10th child starvation death recorded

The World Health Organization said Friday that at least 10 children are known to have starved to death in the Gaza Strip since the war between Hamas and Israel began on Oct. 7.

"So, the official records yesterday or this morning said there was a 10th child officially registered in a hospital as having starved to death. A very sad threshold, similarly sad as the 30,000 deaths we reached all over Gaza," WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said during a press briefing. "And similar like those, these are official records, and as you all point out exactly, the unofficial numbers can unfortunately be expected to be higher. And once we see them, once we see them registered in hospitals, once we see them registered officially, it's already further down the line."

Lindmeier said Gaza's health care system is now "more than on its knees," with Israel having cut off electricity and freshwater supply and limiting the entry of humanitarian aid into the Hamas-ruled enclave in the wake of the Oct. 7 terror attack.

"All this leads to a desperate situation as we saw yesterday in the unfortunate, horrifying incidents, where hundreds of people got killed," he added. "While the U.N. secretary-general mentioned exactly that the investigation should show what the real causes were, that's not even right now important. The important [thing] is that people are so desperate for food, for freshwater, for any supplies that they risk their lives in getting any food, any supplies to support their children, to support themselves."

"This is the real drama, this is the real catastrophe here, that food and supplies are so scarce that we see these situations coming up," he continued. "And the food supplies have been cut off deliberately, let's not forget that."

Lindmeier warned that "once a famine is declared, it is too late for many people."

"We don't want to get to that situation and we need things to change before that,” he told reporters.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky and Morgan Winsor

Mar 01, 6:21 AM
UN chief says killing of Gaza aid seekers requires independent probe

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was "shocked" by Thursday's killing of more than 100 people seeking humanitarian aid in the northern Gaza Strip and that it would require an effective independent investigation.

Guterres made the comments while speaking ahead of a regional summit in St. Vincent and the Grenadines later Thursday. When asked about the U.N. Security Council's repeated failure to adopt a resolution demanding a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, Guterres told reporters that the worsening geopolitical divides have "transformed the veto power into an effective instrument of paralysis of the action of the Security Council."

"I am totally convinced that we need a humanitarian cease-fire and we need the unconditional and immediate release of hostages and that we should have a Security Council able to achieve these objectives," he added.

-ABC News' Morgan Winsor

Feb 29, 3:20 PM
Civilian deaths in Gaza City 'very well could' complicate hostage talks: State Department

State Department spokesperson Matt Miller acknowledged that Thursday’s deadly incident in Gaza City "very well could" complicate hostage talks.

At least 112 people were killed and 760 others were injured when Israeli forces allegedly opened fire on hungry Palestinians who were waiting for food in Gaza City, according to a spokesperson for Gaza's Hamas-run Ministry of Health.

Israeli security officials told ABC News the crowd approached Israeli troops securing the passage of aid trucks in a manner that posed a threat to the troops, who responded with live fire. There was no use of artillery fire, airstrikes or drone strikes in the incident, according to Israeli security officials.

During a press briefing later Thursday, IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari claimed soldiers did not fire at people seeking aid.

"This terrible event underscores the urgency in bringing the hostage talks to a close," Miller said. "We continue to believe a deal is possible and that the deal is in the interest of Israel, the Palestinian people and the broader region."

"When it comes to establishing facts on the ground, we are urgently seeking additional information on exactly what took place," Miller noted. "We have been in touch with the Israeli government since early this morning and understand that an investigation is underway. We will be monitoring that investigation closely and pressing for answers."

He later added that no United Nations agencies were believed to have been involved, and that the U.S. had seen "conflicting reports" from Israel and local Palestinians.

"We don’t have ground truth on what happened," he said, later adding that "oftentimes the early accounts in these situations have turned out to be incorrect."

Miller also expressed "the United States’ deepest condolences to the families for those who died."

"Far too many innocent Palestinians have been killed over the course of this conflict, not just today, but over the past nearly five months. And when you think about today's tragedy, it is especially heartbreaking to consider how many of those families affected will be burying loved ones not for the first time," he said.

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

Feb 29, 1:15 PM
Biden 'hopeful' for cease-fire but 'probably not by Monday'

After suggesting a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel could happen by Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden is now indicating it may take longer to reach a deal, without offering a new timeline.

"Probably not by Monday, but I'm hopeful," Biden told reporters on Thursday. "Hope springs eternal."

The United States, along with Egypt and Qatar, has been mediating talks between the warring sides.

Biden spoke on the phone Thursday with the emir of Qatar and the president of Egypt. All leaders agreed that Hamas should release the hostages "without delay" and that it would result in "an immediate and sustained cease-fire in Gaza over a period of at least six weeks," according to a White House readout.

Biden also thanked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza and plans to surge more assistance to the region.

-ABC News' Justin Ryan Gomez

Feb 29, 12:23 PM
Over 100 killed while waiting for food aid in northern Gaza

Israeli forces allegedly opened fire on hungry Palestinians who were waiting for food aid in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday morning, according to a spokesperson for Gaza's Hamas-run Ministry of Health.

At least 112 people were killed and 760 others were injured in the incident at Al-Nabulsi roundabout near Al-Rashid Street in the southwest of Gaza City, the health ministry spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the death toll was expected to rise as dozens of the wounded were in critical or serious condition. Patients from the incident who were admitted to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City suffered from injuries consistent with gunshot wounds, being hit by tank artillery shells and being trampled, according to the health ministry spokesperson.

When asked for comment, the Israel Defense Forces told ABC News on Thursday: "Early this morning, during the entry of humanitarian aid trucks into the northern Gaza Strip, Gazan residents surrounded the trucks, and looted the supplies being delivered. During the incident, dozens of Gazans were injured as a result of pushing and trampling. The incident is under review."

Israeli security officials told ABC News on Thursday that the crowd approached IDF troops securing the passage of aid trucks in a manner that posed a threat to the troops, who responded with live fire. There was no use of artillery fire, airstrikes or drone strikes in the incident, according to Israeli security officials.

Northern Gaza has been isolated by the Israeli military and almost completely cut off from humanitarian aid for weeks, according to the United Nations, which continues to warn about the threat of famine for people still living there.

One of the truck drivers who delivers humanitarian aid to northern Gaza, Ahmed Ayad, told ABC News on Wednesday that crowds of people waiting for food aid on Al-Rashid Street block the vehicles from reaching their final destination, prompting Israeli soldiers to open fire.

"They fire so that we can advance comfortably," Ayad said. "But people don't respond to the shooting, so they move toward us and take aid from the truck. They're waiting. Everyone is anxious and the amount [of food] arriving is not enough."

U.S.President Joe Biden said Thursday that the White House is looking into the reports of Israeli forces killing civilians.

"There are two complete versions of what happened. I don’t have an answer yet," Biden said, adding that this will complicate the cease-fire negotiations.

The Biden administration is considering airdropping aid into Gaza, a U.S. official told ABC News.

-ABC News' Nasser Atta, Morgan Winsor and Samy Zyara

Feb 29, 4:53 AM
Death toll tops 30,000 in Gaza

More than 30,000 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the latest outbreak of war between Hamas and Israel began on Oct. 7, according to Gaza's Hamas-run Ministry of Health.

Over 70,000 others have been injured in Gaza since Oct. 7, the health ministry said in a statement on Thursday morning.

Of those killed, 75% are children, women and elderly people, according to a separate statement from Hamas.

The World Health Organization, the global health arm of the United Nations, also confirmed the grim milestone with Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus writing in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that "a large majority" of those killed in Gaza are "women and children."

Tedros called for a cease-fire, saying: "This horrific violence and suffering must end."

-ABC News' Morgan Winsor

Feb 28, 3:58 PM
US urges Israel to allow access to Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan

U.S. Department of State spokesperson Matt Miller had no comment on Hamas' calls for a march on Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, but Miller did call on the Israeli government to allow worshipers to access the site during the holy month of Ramadan, stressing it was in Israel's national security interest to avoid fueling tension in the occupied West Bank.

"I don’t have any comment on the call for marches," Miller said during a press briefing Wednesday. "I would just say, as it pertains to Al-Aqsa, we continue to urge Israel to facilitate access to Temple Mount for peaceful worshipers during Ramadan, consistent with past practice."

When asked whether the United States had received assurances that Israel -- a close ally -- would allow such access, Miller told reporters that the Biden administration was aware of "plans under consideration," but said he did not know if a final decision had been made.

"It's not just the right thing to do, it’s not just a matter of granting people religious freedom that they deserve, to which they have a right, but it's also a matter that directly is important to Israel’s security," he added.

The United States, along with Egypt and Qatar, has been mediating talks between Hamas and Israel since the war began.

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

Feb 28, 3:36 PM
State Department urges Israel to allow access to Al-Aqsa during Ramadan

State Department spokesperson Matt Miller had no comment on Hamas’ calls for a march on Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, but Miller did call on Israel to allow worshipers to access the site during Ramadan, stressing it was in Israel’s national security interest to avoid fueling tension in the West Bank.

"I don’t have any comment on the call for marches," Miller said. "I would just say, as it pertains to Al-Aqsa, we continue to urge Israel to facilitate access to Temple Mount for peaceful worshipers during Ramadan, consistent with past practice."

Asked whether the U.S. had received assurances that the Israeli government would allow such access, Miller said the administration was aware of "plans under consideration," but said he did not know if a final decision had been made.

"It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s not just a matter of granting people religious freedom that they deserve, to which they have a right, but it’s also a matter that directly is important to Israel’s security," he said.

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

Feb 28, 3:14 PM
Israeli official says negotiations are slow

Progress toward reaching a hostage and cease-fire deal is slow, according to an Israeli political official with knowledge of the negotiations.

Gaps remain in the discussions surrounding the redeployment of Israeli forces to the Gaza Strip, residents returning to northern Gaza and how many Palestinian prisoners Israel is willing to release, the official said.

Israel’s war cabinet is expected to meet Thursday to discuss progress in the negotiations, the official said.

-ABC News’ Jordana Miller

Feb 28, 12:15 PM
Hamas says it's showing 'flexibility' in talks but 'ready' to continue fighting

Hamas' political leader Ismail Haniyeh said Wednesday that they are showing "flexibility" in their ongoing negotiations with Israel but are "ready" to continue fighting.

"Any flexibility we are showing in the negotiations is to protect the blood of our people and to put an end to their huge pains and sacrifices in the brutal war of extermination against it," Haniyeh, chairman of Hamas' political bureau, said in a statement. "In parallel, [we are] ready to defend our people."

Haniyeh also called on Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank to "march toward Al-Aqsa mosque from the first day of the holy month of Ramadan," which is March 10.

Israel has reportedly accepted a framework agreement of a six-week cease-fire with Hamas, during which 40 Israeli hostages being held in the war-torn Gaza Strip would be released in return for several hundred Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. Hamas, on the other hand, has not commented on the specifics in that framework.

Hamas' main demands are that any agreement should include a path toward a more permanent end to the war and the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. However, Israel is not willing to accept that, which is why the framework it has reportedly agreed to would only see Israeli troops redeployed within Gaza and not withdrawn fully from the Hamas-ruled enclave.

-ABC News' Nasser Atta, Will Gretsky, Tom Soufi Burridge and Morgan Winsor

Feb 28, 8:07 AM
IDF says it coordinated airdrop of humanitarian aid in southern Gaza

A supply of humanitarian aid was airdropped in the war-torn Gaza Strip on Tuesday in cooperation between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, France and the United States, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Approximately 160 packages of food, medical equipment and fuel were airdropped along Gaza's southern coastline using American, Egyptian, Emirati, French and Jordanian planes, the IDF said. The packages were subsequently transferred to residents of southern Gaza and the Jordanian field hospital in Khan Younis, according to the IDF.

-ABC News' Jordana Miller and Morgan Winsor

Feb 28, 8:04 AM
Hamas, Fatah to meet in Russia for talks on potential unity government, Gaza reconstruction

Representatives of Hamas and Fatah will meet in Russia’s capital city on Thursday to discuss the formation of a unified Palestinian government and the rebuilding of the war-torn Gaza Strip, according to Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti.

Fatah, the largest political party within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the dominating force behind the Palestinian Authority (PA), currently only controls the West Bank after being forced out of Gaza amid violent clashes with Hamas when the Palestinian militant group and political organization won legislative elections in 2007. Hamas, designated a terrorist group by several countries including the United States, is not part of the PLO and rejects the Fatah-controlled PA's collaboration with Israeli authorities to maintain security in the West Bank.

-ABC News' Ayat Al-Tawy and Morgan Winsor

Feb 27, 3:55 PM
Biden’s optimism for deal stems from ongoing negotiations: State Department

After President Joe Biden said Monday he "hopes" to see a cease-fire reached by March 4, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Tuesday that Biden’s optimism stemmed from "the broad outlines of a deal" agreed to by Israel, the U.S. and other partners last week, as well as “negotiations that are continuing through this week.”

But Miller said Hamas wields significant control over when and whether a deal is reached.

"Certainly, we'd welcome getting one by this weekend," Miller said. "What I can say about the overall progress is that we made significant progress towards an agreement last week when we had officials from United States government engaging in the region. We continue to pursue further progress this week."

"We are trying to push this deal over the finish line -- we do think it's possible," Miller said.

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford
 

Feb 27, 1:29 PM
Netanyahu 'surprised' by Biden's remarks on potential cease-fire deal, source says

A senior Israeli political source told ABC News on Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was "surprised" by President Joe Biden's remarks that he was hopeful a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas could be in place "by next Monday."

Netanyahu said in a statement later on Tuesday, "Since the beginning of the war, I have been leading a political campaign whose purpose is to curb the pressures intended to end the war before its time, and on the other hand also to gain support for Israel."

"We have significant successes in this area, because today the Howard-Harris survey is published in the United States, which shows that 82% of the American public supports Israel," he continued. "This gives us two more strength to continue the campaign until the complete victory."

-ABC News' Zoe Magee, Jordana Miller and Morgan Winsor

Feb 27, 9:52 AM
What we know about the conflict

The latest outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs the Gaza Strip, has passed the four-month mark.

In the Gaza Strip, at least 29,878 people have been killed and 70,215 others have been wounded by Israeli forces since Oct. 7, according to Gaza's Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health.

In Israel, at least 1,200 people have been killed and 6,900 others have been injured by Hamas and other Palestinian militants since Oct. 7, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

There has also been a surge in violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israeli forces have killed at least 395 people in the territory since Oct. 7, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

The ongoing war began after Hamas-led militants launched an unprecedented incursion into southern Israel from neighboring Gaza via land, sea and air. Scores of people were killed while more than 200 others were taken hostage, according to Israeli authorities. The Israeli military subsequently launched retaliatory airstrikes followed by a ground invasion of Gaza, a 140-square-mile territory where more than 2 million Palestinians have lived under a blockade imposed by Israel and supported by Egypt since Hamas came to power in 2007. Gaza, unlike Israel, has no air raid sirens or bomb shelters.

Feb 27, 7:13 AM
UNRWA 'needs to be dissolved,' Israeli official says

An Israeli official told ABC News on Tuesday that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is "intertwined with terror and needs to be dissolved."

"Their sole goal was to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee problem," the official said. "Their compliance with Hamas terrorism and incitement was exposed. Any prospect for peace depends on dissolving UNRWA."

The Israeli official said humanitarian aid in the war-torn Gaza Strip should be provided by people "who are not associated with Hamas or UNRWA."

ABC News has reached out to UNRWA for comment.

In a dossier released in late January, the Israeli military alleged that 13 UNRWA employees participated in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel.

UNRWA has said it is investigating the allegations and took swift action against those accused of being involved in the attack. However, the United States and other top donors have suspended their funding to the agency, which is the biggest humanitarian aid provider in Gaza.

Feb 27, 5:54 AM
Netanyahu 'surprised' by Biden's remarks on potential cease-fire deal, source says

A senior Israeli political source told ABC News on Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was "surprised" by U.S. President Joe Biden's remarks that he was hopeful a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas could be in place "by next Monday."

Feb 27, 5:42 AM
Qatar says no breakthrough in talks between Israel, Hamas

A spokesperson for the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday that there is no breakthrough to announce concerning a potential deal between Israel and Hamas on a cease-fire and hostage release.

"Many developments have occurred. Nothing to announce today, but we feel optimistic," the spokesperson told reporters.

The spokesperson said the talks remain "ongoing" and they cannot comment on U.S. President Joe Biden's remarks that a deal is expected by next Monday.

Qatar, along with Egypt and the United States, has been mediating talks between the warring sides.

Feb 27, 5:30 AM
Hamas' demands in negotiations 'are still delusional,' Israeli official says

An Israeli official told ABC News on Tuesday that Hamas' demands in ongoing negotiations "are still delusional."

"Military pressure and determined negotiation have helped free 112 hostages to date. Israel will get the remaining hostages home," the official said. "A deal was done in November and another deal can be made once Hamas comes to reality. Hamas demands are still delusional."

Feb 26, 6:28 PM
Biden 'hopes' for cease-fire in Gaza by next Monday

President Biden said he "hopes" to have a cease-fire in Gaza by March 4.

"I hope by the end of the weekend," the president told reporters Monday. "My national security advisor tells me that we’re close, it's not done yet. My hope is by next Monday we’ll have a ceasefire."

The comments came during a stop at Van Leeuwen’s ice cream shop in New York City as the president visited NBC Late Night host Seth Meyers.

Feb 26, 4:03 PM
State Department says there's been 'progress' in hostage talks

State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said Monday that there’s been "progress" in hostage talks over the last few days, but he said it’s unclear whether Hamas would accept the latest proposal.

"We’ve had progress with the conversations we've had between Egypt, Israel, the United States and Qatar," Miller said.

He was then asked if they might reach a deal before Ramadan, which begins on March 10.

"I can't make that assessment because it depends on Hamas. We believe a deal is possible and we hope Hamas will agree to one," he said.

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

Feb 26, 12:16 PM
Aid to Gaza has dropped by half since January, UNRWA says

Humanitarian aid to Gaza dropped by 50% from January to February, according to Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

"Aid was supposed to increase not decrease to address the huge needs of 2 million Palestinians in desperate living conditions," Lazzarini said on social media Monday. "Among the obstacles: lack of political will, regular closing of the crossing points & lack of security due to military operations + collapse of civil order."

Lazzarini stressed the need for a cease-fire.

Feb 25, 7:06 PM
Netanyahu's office presents war cabinet with plan to evacuate Gazans from 'areas of fighting'

The Israeli Prime Minister's Office has presented Israel's war cabinet with a "plan for evacuating the population from the areas of fighting in the Gaza Strip," a release from the office said early Monday local time.

"In addition, the plan for providing humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip in a manner that will prevent the looting that has occurred in the northern Strip and other areas was approved," the statement added.

-ABC News' Dana Savir

Feb 24, 4:34 PM
Israel agrees to updated framework in cease-fire, hostage deal

Israel has agreed to an updated framework that would establish a six-week cease-fire in Gaza in exchange for the release of 40 hostages, an Israeli source told ABC News. The development follows talks in Paris, which includes officials from the U.S., Israel, Qatar and Egypt.

While Israel says it's waiting to hear back from Hamas on whether it will accept the updated language from this weekend's talks, Israel is pushing forward with plans to enter Rafah. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted on X that operational plans and evacuation plans in Rafah are ready to be approved by his cabinet.

As part of the proposed deal, Israel has agreed to release jailed Palestinians at a higher ratio than the previous deal, which was 3 to 1. Up to 400 Palestinian prisoners could be released in this new deal.

The Israel Defense Forces will redeploy but not withdraw from Gaza.

-ABC News' Marcus Moore

Feb 23, 1:23 PM
Blinken calls Israeli settlement expansion 'inconsistent with international law'

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is signaling a possible shift back to a long-standing U.S. policy rejecting Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, calling it "inconsistent with international law."

Asked at a press availability in Argentina for his response to Israel’s purported plans to build thousands of new settlement homes in the area, Blinken responded, "We’ve seen the reports, and I have to say we’re disappointed in the announcement."

"It's been long-standing U.S. policy under Republican and Democratic administration alike that new settlements are counterproductive to reaching an enduring peace. They're also inconsistent with international law," Blinken said. "Our administration maintains firm opposition to settlement expansion, and in our judgment, this only weakens -- doesn't strengthen -- Israel security."

The Biden administration has condemned Israeli expansion in the West Bank for years, but the State Department had not yet gone so far as to say they ran afoul of international law after Blinken’s predecessor, Mike Pompeo, said in 2019 that the U.S. would no longer view Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem as violations.

But before delivering his rebuke, Blinken made note of what he called a "horrific terrorist attack" on a Jewish settlement in the West Bank this week and said the U.S. would continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself and its people.

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

Feb 22, 2:57 PM
Over 85,000 people in Gaza could die in next 6 months if war escalates, report finds

More than 85,000 people in Gaza could die over the next six months if the war between Israel and Hamas escalates, epidemiologists from Johns Hopkins University and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found.

The epidemiologists presented findings about death tolls in three potential scenarios: if a cease-fire is reached, if the war remains as it is, and if the war escalates.

If a cease-fire is reached, more than 11,000 people will die over the next six months, the findings estimate, based on current conditions inside Gaza.

If the status quo of the war is maintained, more than 66,000 people will die during the same period, the findings show.

And in the worst-case scenario, if the war escalates, more than 85,000 people could die, the report found.

These numbers are in addition to the more than 29,000 people who have already died in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to Gaza's Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health.

-ABC News’ Ellie Kaufman

Feb 22, 2:18 PM
Israeli war cabinet approves sending negotiators to Paris talks

The Israeli war cabinet on Friday approved sending Israeli negotiators to hostage and cease-fire talks in Paris. The war cabinet's decision will be brought to the Israeli security cabinet for approval later on Friday night.

Qatari, Egyptian and U.S. officials are also expected to be at Friday's talks in Paris, according to reports.

Feb 22, 12:18 PM
Israel concludes 1-week operation inside Nasser Hospital in Gaza

The Israeli Defense Forces said Thursday that its soldiers have concluded their one-week operation inside Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, where the IDF said it arrested at least 200 suspected Hamas members.

The World Health Organization said earlier this week that it helped evacuate some of the critically ill patients from the hospital.

On Wednesday, the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health said eight patients who died because of a lack of electricity at Nasser Hospital were still in their beds inside of the hospital among living patients. The IDF denied these claims.

Feb 22, 3:35 AM
One dead, several injured in shooting near Jerusalem, Israeli authorities say

At least one person was killed and several others were injured Thursday in a shooting on a main road just outside Jerusalem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, according to Israeli authorities.

Highway 1 was packed with cars when gunfire erupted Thursday morning near a checkpoint between Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement of Ma'ale Adumim. Three "terrorists" armed with automatic weapons pulled up in a vehicle, got out and opened fire at cars that were standing still in the traffic jam, according to the Israel Police.

Israeli security forces who were already on scene "neutralized" two of the suspects, police said. A third suspect who had tried to escape was later found and also "neutralized," according to police.

Medics arrived and "ran from vehicle to vehicle" searching for victims, according to Israel's rescue service MDA. A man in his 20s was pronounced dead at the scene while several others were transported to area hospitals, including four people who were moderately injured with gunshot wounds, MDA said.

Feb 21, 2:59 PM
Israeli Minister Gantz expresses cautious optimism about new hostage deal

Israeli Minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday expressed cautious optimism that a new outline for a possible hostage deal could move forward.

Gantz, a member of the Israeli war cabinet, said at Israel's Defense Headquarters Wednesday that there are "attempts" to "promote a new outline" for a hostage deal, and there are "initial signs that indicate the possibility of moving forward."

"We will not stop looking for the way, and we will not miss any opportunity to bring the girls and boys home," Gantz said.

-ABC News’ Ellie Kaufman and Dana Savir

Feb 21, 1:02 PM
8 bodies remain in Nasser Medical Complex among living patients, Gaza Ministry of Health says

Eight patients who died because of a lack of electricity at Nasser Medical Complex in Gaza are still in their beds inside of the hospital among living patients, the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health said Wednesday.

The Ministry of Health said the bodies are still in the hospital because Israeli forces refuse to remove them.

The bodies "have begun to swell and show signs of decomposition, posing a danger to other patients," the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

Israeli authorities denied these claims and said no bodies are still inside Nasser Hospital.

The Israel Defense Forces has been operating inside of Nasser Hospital for the last week. On Monday, the IDF announced its soldiers had arrested 200 suspected Hamas members at Nasser Hospital.

ABC News’ Ellie Kaufman and Camilla Alcini

Feb 21, 8:28 AM
Israel considering sending delegation to Egypt for new round of talks, source says

Israel is weighing the possibility of sending a delegation back to Egypt for continued negotiations over a potential cease-fire or hostage deal with Hamas, an Israeli political source told ABC News on Wednesday.

There is some cautious optimism over the latest round of talks in Cairo, the source said.

Egypt, along with Qatar and the United States, has been mediating talks between the warring sides.

Feb 21, 8:14 AM
Israel preparing to reopen Karni border crossing to facilitate aid to northern Gaza, source says

Israel is preparing to reopen the Karni border crossing to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid into the northern Gaza Strip, an Israeli political source told ABC News on Wednesday.

Israel shuttered the Karni crossing, located on the border between southwestern Israel and northeastern Gaza, when Palestinian militant group Hamas came to power in the enclave in 2007 before permanently closing the crossing in 2011.

Northern Gaza has been isolated by the Israeli military and almost completely cut off from aid for weeks, according to the United Nations.

Feb 21, 7:56 AM
UN food agency pauses deliveries to northern Gaza

The World Food Program, the food assistance arm of the United Nations, announced Tuesday that it is pausing deliveries of food aid to the northern Gaza Strip “until conditions are in place that allow for safe distribution.”

The decision came after a WFP convoy heading north from Gaza City was “surrounded by crowds of hungry people close to the Wadi Gaza checkpoint” on Sunday, the agency said. The same convoy faced “complete chaos and violence due to the collapse of civil order” when it tried to resume its journey north on Monday, according to the WFP.

“Several trucks were looted between Khan Yunis and Deir al-Balah and a truck driver was beaten. The remaining flour was spontaneously distributed off the trucks in Gaza City, amidst high tension and explosive anger,” the WFP said in a statement Tuesday. “The decision to pause deliveries to the north of the Gaza Strip has not been taken lightly, as we know it means the situation there will deteriorate further and more people risk dying of hunger.”

An analysis released Monday by the Global Nutrition Cluster, a humanitarian aid partnership led by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), found that 15.6% of children under the age of 2 are acutely malnourished in northern Gaza, which has been isolated by the Israeli military and almost completely cut off from aid for weeks, compared to 5% in southern Gaza, where most aid enters the war-torn enclave. The acute malnutrition rate across Gaza was less than 1% before the war began last October, according to the report.

Feb 20, 2:21 PM
Hostages held in Gaza have received medicine, Qatar says

Qatari officials said hostages held by Hamas in Gaza have received the medication that was part of a deal brokered last month.

The Israeli Prime Minister's Office said it has asked Qatar for evidence that the medicine was delivered.

"Israel will examine the credibility of the report and will continue to work for the peace of our abductees," the office said in a statement.

Feb 20, 12:21 PM
US draft resolution calls for temporary cease-fire

The U.S. voted against a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire at Wednesday’s United Nations Security Council meeting, The Associated Press reported.

The U.S. was the only nation of the 15 permanent Security Council members to vote against the measure, according to the AP.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said "an unconditional cease-fire without any obligation for Hamas to release hostages" was irresponsible.

"While we cannot support a resolution that would put sensitive negotiations in jeopardy, we look forward to engaging on a text that we believe will address so many of the concerns we all share -- a text that can and should be adopted by the council, so that we can have a temporary cease-fire as soon as practicable, based on the formula of all hostages being released," she said.

The U.S. has been circulating its own draft resolution on Gaza that calls for a temporary cease-fire conditioned on the release of all hostages, while also condemning Hamas for the Oct. 7 attack that sparked the war, according to senior administration officials familiar with the matter.

If the proposal were to be adopted by the U.N. Security Council, it would mark the first time the body has formally condemned Hamas’ actions.

The officials say the draft also makes clear "that under current circumstances a major ground offensive into Rafah should not proceed" and that there can be no reduction in territory in the Gaza Strip or any forced displacement of Palestinians, while also calling on Israel "to lift all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance, open additional humanitarian routes, and to keep current crossings open."

The senior officials signaled that American diplomats wouldn’t rush the text to a vote and that they intended on "allowing time for negotiations."

While hostage talks have sputtered over the past couple of weeks, senior administration officials said they were making some progress.

"The differences between the parties, they have been narrowed. They haven’t been sufficiently narrowed to get us to a deal, but we are still hopeful and we are confident that there is the basis for an agreement between the parties," one official said.

ABC News' Shannon Crawford

Feb 20, 11:34 AM
US votes against immediate cease-fire

The U.S. voted against a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire at Wednesday’s United Nations Security Council meeting, The Associated Press reported.

The U.S. was the only nation of the 15 permanent Security Council members to vote against the measure, according to the AP.

The U.S. has said an immediate cease-fire could impede the negotiations looking to free hostages and agree to a pause in fighting, the AP said.

Feb 20, 11:07 AM
IDF operating inside Al-Amal Hospital

Israeli forces, which already entered Gaza’s Nasser Hospital, are also now operating inside the nearby Al-Amal Hospital, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed to ABC News.

"Al-Amal Hospital is currently under multiple attacks, as Israeli forces have directly targeted the third floor of the hospital, resulting in the burning of two rooms," and "the hospital’s water lines were targeted," the Palestine Red Crescent Society said.

Over 8,000 patients were evacuated from the hospital earlier this month, but almost 100 patients still remain inside, the Palestine Red Crescent Society said.

Feb 20, 7:13 AM
WHO helps transfer 32 critical patients out of Gaza's besieged Nasser Hospital

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that it has helped to successfully transfer 32 critically ill patients, including two children, from besieged Nasser Hospital in the southern Gaza Strip.

The WHO said its staff led two "life-saving," "high-risk" missions at the medical complex in Khan Younis on Sunday and Monday, in close partnership with the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, "amid ongoing hostilities and access restrictions." Staff at Nasser Hospital had requested the transfer of patients after the facility became "non-functional" following an Israeli military raid on Feb. 14 after a weeklong siege, according to the WHO.

"Weak and frail patients were transferred amidst active conflict near the aid convoy," the WHO said in a statement. "Road conditions hindered the swift movement of ambulances, placing the health of patients at further risk."

"Nasser Hospital has no electricity or running water, and medical waste and garbage are creating a breeding ground for disease," the organization added. "WHO staff said the destruction around the hospital was 'indescribable.' The area was surrounded by burnt and destroyed buildings, heavy layers of debris, with no stretch of intact road."

The WHO estimates that 130 sick and injured patients and at least 15 doctors and nurses remain inside Nasser Hospital. As the facility's intensive care unit was no longer functioning, the only remaining ICU patient was transferred to a different part of the complex where other patients are receiving basic care, according to the WHO.

"WHO fears for the safety and well-being of the patients and health workers remaining in the hospital and warns that further disruption to lifesaving care for the sick and injured would lead to more deaths," the organization said. "Efforts to facilitate further patient referrals amidst the ongoing hostilities are in process."

Prior to the missions on Sunday and Monday, the WHO said it "received two consecutive denials to access the hospital for medical assessment, causing delays in urgently needed patient referral." At least five patients reportedly died in Nasser Hospital's ICU before any missions or transfers were possible, according to the WHO.

Nasser Hospital is the main medical center serving southern Gaza. Ground troops from the Israel Defense Forces stormed the facility last week, looking for members of Hamas who the IDF alleges have been conducting military operations out of the hospital. Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs Gaza and is at war with neighboring Israel, denies the claims.

"The dismantling and degradation of the Nasser Medical Complex is a massive blow to Gaza's health system," the WHO said. "Facilities in the south are already operating well beyond maximum capacity and are barely able to receive more patients."

Feb 20, 5:26 AM
Aid groups warn of potential 'explosion in preventable child deaths' in Gaza

A new analysis by the Global Nutrition Cluster, a humanitarian aid partnership led by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, found that 90% of children under the age of 2 in the war-torn Gaza Strip face severe food poverty, meaning they eat two or fewer food groups a day.

The same was true for 95% of pregnant and breastfeeding women in Gaza, according to the report released Monday. And at least 90% of children under 5 are affected by one or more infectious disease, with 70% experiencing diarrhea in the past two weeks, the report said.

In Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah, where most humanitarian aid enters, 5% of children under 2 are acutely malnourished, compared to more than 15% in northern Gaza, which has been isolated by the Israeli military and almost completely cut off from aid for weeks, the report said. Before war broke out last October between Israel and Gaza's militant rulers, Hamas, the acute malnutrition rate across the coastal enclave was less than 1%, according to the report.

The report also found that more than 80% of homes in Gaza lack clean and safe water, with the average household having one liter per person per day.

"The Gaza Strip is poised to witness an explosion in preventable child deaths which would compound the already unbearable level of child deaths in Gaza," Ted Chaiban, deputy executive director for humanitarian action and supply operations at UNICEF, said in a statement. "We've been warning for weeks that the Gaza Strip is on the brink of a nutrition crisis. If the conflict doesn't end now, children’s nutrition will continue to plummet, leading to preventable deaths or health issues which will affect the children of Gaza for the rest of their lives and have potential intergenerational consequences."

Feb 19, 12:31 PM
Gaza's health ministry accuses IDF of turning Nasser Hospital into 'military barracks'

Israeli troops have turned Nasser Hospital, the main medical center serving the southern Gaza Strip, into a "military barracks" and are "endangering the lives of patients and medical staff," according to Gaza's Hamas-run Ministry of Health.

The health ministry said Monday that patients and medical staff inside Nasser Hospital are now without electricity, water, food, oxygen and treatment capabilities for difficult cases since Israeli ground troops raided the facility in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis last week.

The World Health Organization, which warned on Sunday that Nasser Hospital "is not functional anymore," said more than 180 patients and 15 doctors and nurses remain inside the hospital.

The WHO said it has evacuated 14 critical patients from the hospital to receive treatment elsewhere.

The Israel Defense Forces alleges that Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs Gaza, has been conducting military operations out of Nasser Hospital and other medical centers in the war-torn enclave -- claims which Hamas denies.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Navalny's funeral goes ahead Friday, despite pressure

A picture of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny with the lettering 'We believe in Alexey' is pictured at a makeshift memorial in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on February 29, 2024. (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

(MOSCOW) -- The funeral of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny took place in Moscow on Friday, even as his team had earlier accused authorities of trying to disrupt it and prevent people from gathering to pay their respects to Vladimir Putin's most potent critic.

The funeral service was held at a small church in the southern suburb of Marino, with the Russian opposition leader's casket open during the service. Navalny was to be buried at the nearby Borisov cemetery, according to his spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh.

Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila, and the mother of his wife attended, consoling each other, but his widow Yulia and their two children -- as well as Navalny's brother Oleg -- could not attend the funeral fearing arrest. They posted messages on social media during the service expressing their love for him and promising him they would make him proud.

Navalny's team had accused authorities of trying to block a public funeral, fearing protests, but his colleagues on Thursday insisted anyone wishing to say farewell should come regardless of threats.

Some 91 people had been arrested in 19 cities nationwide at commemorations, according to an independent nongovernmental organization that monitors arrests, but in general police so far have largely not moved to disperse crowds.

Navalny was buried to the music from the final scene of "Terminator 2," a film he loved and a last joke from him typical of his humor.

People lined up for hours to pay respects at Navalny's grave, with police allowing small groups of mourners to go in. Crowds have also chanted anti-war slogans in Moscow, the largest such demonstrations since the start of the war. The crowds sometimes also shouted “Ukrainians are good people.”

Navalny's team has also called on people outside Moscow to go to memorials for Navalny in their respective cities.

"Despite all the resistance, the farewell to Alexey will definitely take place tomorrow," Yarmysh wrote Thursday on X, formerly Twitter, adding that the service will begin at 2 p.m. local time and the burial will take place two hours later. "If you are in Moscow -- come," she said.

Since Navalny's death in an Arctic prison colony two weeks ago, police have detained hundreds of people trying to lay flowers at monuments to political repression to honor him.

Photos circulated by local Russian social media news channels Thursday evening appeared to show police stacking barricades near the church where the funeral service would be held.

After authorities initially refused to hand over Navalny's body to his mother, his team accused them of continuing to try to disrupt the burial, alleging that funeral homes and cemeteries were pressured not to help them. Russian authorities gave Navalny's body to his mother more than a week after the opposition leader's Feb. 16 death.

Yarmysh on Thursday said they were struggling to find a hearse to carry Navalny's body because undertakers were allegedly being threatened. Moscow authorities on Thursday evening also refused to authorize a request to hold a memorial march on Saturday of up to 50,000 people.

Yekaterina Duntsova, a liberal opposition activist, posted a photograph of the refusal from the Moscow mayor's office, which cited COVID restrictions as justification for blocking the march, despite Moscow not enforcing restrictions in the city since the early months of the pandemic in 2020.

Navalny's family and allies have accused Russia of killing the Putin critic in prison. Navalny had been previously poisoned and nearly died in an assassination attempt blamed on the Russian president.

Some Western countries, including the United States, have said Putin bears responsibility for Navalny's death. "We don't know exactly what happened but there is no doubt that the death of Navalny was the result of something that Putin and his friends did," President Joe Biden said.

The level of repression in Russia means it's difficult to predict how many people will try to attend Navalny's funeral. After the opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was gunned down in front of the Kremlin in 2015, around 50,000 people marched through the center of Moscow for his funeral. Navalny likely has an even stronger following, but the environment is now vastly different in Russia, where there's currently almost zero tolerance for dissent and virtually all independent opposition figures are driven into exile or jailed.

Navalny, who was 47, for most of the last decade emerged as the unrivaled opponent of Putin's regime.

He built a millions-strong following through innovative anti-corruption investigations that exposed the ill-gotten wealth of Putin and senior Russian officials, publishing them as humorous, viral videos. He sought to run for president and built up a grassroots political movement, leading protests and conducting tactical voting campaigns aimed at undercutting Putin's rule.

Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent while on a plane to Moscow in August 2020. He was flown to Germany, where he received treatment and doctors confirmed he'd been poisoned. The U.S. later sanctioned four Russians it said were involved in the poisoning and who were members of Russia's Federal Security Service, or the FSB -- the main successor agency to the Soviet Union's KGB.

Despite the assassination attempt, Navalny returned to Russia in early 2021 and was immediately imprisoned on fraud and extremism charges that were widely dismissed as politically motivated. Put on trial again while in prison, Navalny continued to mock and criticize Putin's regime and organize peaceful efforts to weaken it.

In life, Navalny led many peaceful demonstrations throughout Moscow in defiance of bans by authorities, denouncing official corruption and calling for free elections. Police arrested thousands of people at the protests, taking an ever harder line. Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, virtually no public protest has been permitted, with even those holding single-person pickets holding blank pieces of paper being detained.

Still, it appeared likely people would attempt to reach Friday's funeral.

Navalny's death has devastated Russia's already beleaguered anti-Kremlin opposition. His wife, Yulia Navalnaya, has vowed to continue his fight, making public appearances and continuing to call for action against Putin. In a speech at the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday, she called Putin a "bloody monster" and urged countries to treat him as the head of an "organized crime gang" and to find innovative ways to target his and his circle's assets in their territory.

Navalnaya has lived in exile for several years and would likely face arrest if she returned to Russia.

She accused Putin and Moscow's mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, on Wednesday of trying to prevent a public ceremony for Navalny.

"People in the Kremlin killed him, then they abused Alexey's body, then abused his mother, now they are abusing his memory," she wrote on X. "We don't want any special treatment -- just give the opportunity to people to say goodbye normally to Alexey. Just don't interfere, please."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney dies at 84

Brian Mulroney, Canada's former prime minister, sits for a photograph before introducing George Mitchell, a former Senator from Maine, not pictured, at the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. -- Cole Burston/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney has died at 84 "surrounded by family," his daughter Caroline Mulroney announced on Thursday.

"On behalf of my mother and our family, it is with great sadness we announce the passing of my father, The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, Canada's 18th Prime Minister. He died peacefully, surrounded by family," Caroline Mulroney posted on X Thursday afternoon.

Mulroney was first elected in 1984, becoming Canada's 18th prime minister in what was the largest landslide vote in the country's history.

He and his Progressive Conservatives won a record 211 seats out of 282. His government was reelected in 1988. Mulroney stepped down in 1993 after his party held onto only two of 295 seats in the House of Commons.

Born to a working-class family in northeastern Quebec, Mulroney would go on to become a corporate lawyer, a career he returned to after leaving office.

Mulroney's time as prime minister is largely remembered by pushing a free trade deal forward, eventually becoming the North American Free Trade Agreement, with the United States and Mexico, a pact signed in December 1992.

NAFTA was a controversial trade pact that eliminated most tariffs and other trade barriers on products and services passing between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Mulroney was close with Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, delivering eulogies at both of their funerals.

"Brian Mulroney loved Canada. I'm devastated to learn of his passing," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement on X Thursday.

"He never stopped working for Canadians, and he always sought to make this country an even better place to call home. I'll never forget the insights he shared with me over the years – he was generous, tireless, and incredibly passionate," Trudeau said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


How scientists discovered 7,000 humpback whale deaths using AI technology: Study

Alfredo Martinez/Getty Images

(SAN FRANCISCO) -- The intersection of marine biology and artificial intelligence technology has led to a startling humpback whale population discovery.

Approximately 7,000 humpback whales in the North Pacific Ocean died between 2012 and 2021 after the damaging effects of a yearslong marine heatwave, according to a study published Wednesday by Royal Society Open Science. It represented a 20% decline during this period.

The marine heatwave began in 2013 and lasted until 2021, steeply raising water temperatures and decreasing ocean productivity worldwide.

In the North Pacific, the study found the humpback whale population dwindled from 33,500 in 2012 to 26,500 by 2021.

The massive, international study gathered data and images from 46 organizations and 4,292 community science contributors and used AI technology to match and identify humpback whales around the world efficiently.

"We brought together data for over 30,000 individual humpback whales in over 200,000 encounters, something that would have been effectively impossible without AI-powered automated image recognition," Dr. Ted Cheeseman, lead researcher of the study, told ABC News. "It changes the landscape of research, providing a cost-effective tool that gives us some hope of keeping up with the pace of ecosystem change."

In the past, whale populations were estimated by methods such as manual ship surveys, with much smaller sample sizes, but the implementation of AI matching techniques allowed for more widespread data to be included -- and showed the substantial population decline of humpback whales in the North Pacific, according to the study.

AI technology used photo matching to identify individual humpback whales based on the shape of their tail flukes and their pigment patterns.

"I'm excited because this pioneers a new way of doing research," John Calambokidis, senior research biologist and co-author of the study, told ABC News. "It brings more researchers and people together and creates a more collaborative and supportive atmosphere for research going forward."

The humpback whale images and data were aggregated via a platform called Happywhale, where researchers and whale watchers alike submitted whale photos for this study and future research.

So far, nearly 800,000 photos have been submitted to Happywhale, which has led to the identification of more than 100,000 individual whales, according to the site.

"One of the exciting developments of Happywhale, crowdsourcing, and automated matching, is that it led to more contributions by citizen scientists and whale watchers," Calambokidis said.

"We're learning that the changes going on in the environment can have huge consequences to long-lived species, like whales, that people cherish and value," Calambokidis said, noting, "This is important to motivate protection and conservation."

Despite the remarkable recovery in humpback whale populations after the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, Calambokidis said this comprehensive study shows the stark reality of climate change's impact on marine life.

"It's only been in more recent years that scientists really have gotten a handle on how whale populations recovered from commercial whaling," Calambokidis said.

Calambokidis noted that despite humpback populations increasing along the U.S. West Coast, this international study shows, "Overall, the humpback population has declined in recent years. It seems to be related to climate-driven changes that have lowered the carrying capacity for humpback whales."

The marine heatwave -- referred to by researchers as "the blob" -- had a sweeping impact on the ecosystem from phytoplankton lacking nutrients all the way up the food chain to whales, sea lions, and sea birds facing food shortages.

"The aspects that are distressing are the magnitude and the duration of these cyclical patterns that are naturally occurring," Dr. Ari Friedlaender, a professor of ocean studies at UC Santa Cruz told ABC News.

"Animals may be able to withstand shorter or less frequent marine heatwaves, but if they become more common and bigger anomalies, then it becomes very challenging for ecosystems to handle."

Commenting on the impact of the study, Friedlaender said, "It raises the flag, but it doesn't answer the question of how do we protect and conserve these animals?"

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Former ballerina detained in Russia has appeal denied in Siberian court

ABC News

LONDON -- A court in Siberia denied on Thursday the appeal of Ksenia Karelina, a dual American-Russian citizen, who appeared via video link to appeal her detention on charges of treason.

Karelina, 33, was arrested on Jan. 27, according to Russian state media. The Sverdlovsk Regional Court on Thursday extended her pre-trial detention in a jail in Yekaterinburg, Russia, until April 6.

A former ballerina who lives in California, Karelina holds both U.S. and Russian citizenship. She was jailed for allegedly organizing fundraisers for Ukraine's military, attending pro-Ukraine rallies, and posting messages against Russia's war in Ukraine, according to Russian state media.

A U.S. official said diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow were working to learn more and gain access to Karelina.

White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby last week urged U.S. passport holders to "depart immediately" from Russia.

"So if you’re a U.S. citizen, including a dual national, residing in or traveling in Russia, you ought to leave right now if you can," Kirby said following the arrest.

ABC News' Joe Simonetti, Molly Nagle and Shannon K. Crawford contributed to this report.

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France again floats idea of sending non-combat troops to Ukraine

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LONDON -- France’s foreign minister has suggested that Western countries should be considering the idea that NATO troops should perhaps be deployed to Ukraine in non-combat roles to assist Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Stéphane Sejourne in France’s parliament on Wednesday elaborated further, saying NATO troops could potentially be deployed into Ukraine to assist with roles such as “demining, cyber operations or weapons production.”

This statement follows President Emmanuel Macron’s comments on Tuesday, saying Western troop deployments to Ukraine should “not be ruled out.”

Macron said troops could do such actions without “crossing the threshold of belligerence” and such things should not be ruled out given Russia’s efforts to destabilize Europe.

France’s suggestions have been firmly rebuffed by some key European states but it appears there is a real growing push among some European countries to at least discuss the possibility of providing more direct military assistance, something that had been previously been taboo.

The Netherlands defense ministry also didn’t rule it out on Tuesday and Macron, along with Slovakia’s prime minister, have both said publicly some countries are actively discussing it.

This development underlines how an understanding seems to be rapidly emerging in Europe that it needs to take its own major steps to counteract Russian success in Ukraine as American aid is at risk of collapse and a Putin victory no longer seems impossible.

In part, the more assertive public stance from France and other countries seems intended to establish some “strategic ambiguity” with Russia instead of telegraphing what the West won’t do and, therefore, giving Putin broad lines to operate in. In other words, parts of Europe are trying to toughen up the line to make Putin think twice.

There is a dawning sense, however, that Europe needs to do more and for Ukraine and figure out alternative methods to deter the Kremlin, especially considering the open secret that Western special forces -- at the very least from the U.S. and U.K. -- are already on the ground assisting Ukraine covertly.

Those who support the idea suggest Western military personnel could bolster Ukraine’s air defenses and free up Ukrainian troops if they were stationed in the rear for example.

While these plans are not on the cards in the immediate sense, even the discussions show a significant shift regarding how concerned European governments are becoming at the sudden prospect of a potential victory in some form for Putin in Ukraine.

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Ghana’s parliament passes controversial new anti-LGBTQ bill

ABC News

LONDON -- Ghana’s parliament has passed a controversial new anti-LGBTQ bill following months of debate that could make it illegal to identify as a citizen of the LGBTQ in the West African nation.

The bill -- named the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill -- was passed by the national legislature on Wednesday in a unanimous vote by lawmakers.

The proposed law which was sent to ABC News states that it aims to “provide for proper human sexual rights and Ghanaian family values."

It now awaits being signed into law by Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo.

The bill is one of the harshest of its kind in Africa and, if signed into law, it could see people who identify as “gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, pansexual, nonbinary, queer … or any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female” sentenced to up to three years in prison.

Those found guilty of the “promotion, sponsorship or support of LGBTQ+ activities” could also face a prison sentence of up to five years in prison.

Gay sexual acts are already illegal in the West African nation and being convicted of the crime carries a prison sentence of up to three years.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk has condemned the passage of the bill, calling for it not to become law.

“The bill broadens the scope of criminal sanctions against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transexual and queer people – simply for being who they are,” said Türk in response to the proposed bill. “I call for the bill not to become law. I urge the Ghanaian government to take steps to ensure everyone can live free from violence, stigma, and discrimination, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Consensual same-sex conduct should never be criminalized.”

The Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill was first introduced to parliament in 2021 following a wave of anti-LGBTQ sentiments after the opening of Ghana’s first LGBTQ+ community center.

"We did not expect such an uproar," Alex Kofi Donkor, director of LGBT+ Rights Ghana, which hosted an opening event in Ghana’s capital city of Accra told Reuters in 2021.

"We expected some homophobic organizations would use the opportunity to exploit the situation and stoke tension against the community, but the anti-gay hateful reaction has been unprecedented,” Donkor said.

A total of 31 of Africa’s 54 countries criminalize homosexuality and the passage of Ghana’s bill follows Uganda’s passage of the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2023.

The United States has said it is “deeply troubled” by the passage of the bill, saying it poses a threat to “Ghanaian’s constitutionally protected freedoms of speech, press and assembly.”

“Ghana’s tradition of tolerance, peace, and respect for human rights is a source of stability and prosperity that has long served as a model for countries around the globe. This legislation is inconsistent with these values and will, if it becomes law, undermine this laudable tradition,” the U.S. State Department said.

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More than 570,000 people in Gaza are 'one step away from famine': UN official

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(NEW YORK) -- More than 570,000 people in Gaza are on the brink of experiencing famine levels of hunger amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, according to a United Nations official.

About one-quarter of the population -- 576,000 people -- are "one step away from famine" and facing a "grave situation," Ramesh Rajasingham, director of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said during a briefing Tuesday.

One in six children under the age of 2 in northern Gaza is suffering from acute malnutrition, he said, and that it was predicted the entire population of Gaza would be suffering from high levels of food insecurity by February 2024, which would be the highest share of a population worldwide ever recorded.

"Practically the entire population of Gaza [is] left to rely on woefully inadequate humanitarian food assistance to survive," Rajasingham said. "Unfortunately, as grim as the picture we see today, there is every possibility for further deterioration."

Rajasingham said the military operations being carried out in Gaza, as well as the restrictions on what goods can enter the strip, have had a detrimental effect on food production and agriculture.

Since the terrorist group Hamas came to power in 2007, Israel -- with the support of Egypt -- has restricted the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza. Following Hamas' surprise attack on Israel in October 2023, Israel tightened those restrictions and increased inspections, with Israeli officials saying they were attempting to limit Hamas' access to weapons.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has previously said Israel doesn't provide enough authorization to deliver sufficient aid and, even when it does give authorization, the fighting makes it difficult to deliver that aid. Israel disputes the criticisms.

The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday said it helped with humanitarian aid airdrops this week in cooperation with the United States, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar, Egypt and France, transferring about 160 packages of food and medical equipment to some 17 locations in southern Gaza on Tuesday. According to the Israeli prime minister's office, 174 aid trucks entered Monday and a convoy of 31 trucks carrying food made its way to northern Gaza, adding that almost 50 trucks were transferred to northern Gaza over the past three days. Israeli officials have said Hamas steals aid once it enters Gaza and claim looting is also a problem.

Israel has denied accusations that it isn't letting enough aid into Gaza, with officials saying the U.N., its partners and other aid agencies have created logistical challenges, resulting in a bottleneck. The U.N. disputes these claims.

The IDF did not address images released of people standing on the Gaza shoreline and rushing to receive the aid as it fell during an airdrop Monday.

The northern Gaza Strip has been isolated by the Israeli military and largely cut off for months now, according to the U.N., which, along with multiple aid organizations, continues to warn about the threat of famine for those still living there.

"Food security experts warn of complete agricultural collapse in northern Gaza by May if conditions persist, with fields and productive assets damaged, destroyed or inaccessible," Rajasingham said Tuesday. "Many have had little choice but to abandon productive farmland due to evacuation orders and repeated displacement."

Additionally, the limited amounts of water, fuel and electricity have stopped food production, Rajasingham said, and Gaza's mills ceased operations in November. Fishing has also been halted due to sea access for boats being cut off, according to Rajasingham.

This is not the first time humanitarian organizations have warned about the population of Gaza potentially facing starvation.

In December 2023, nonprofit CARE International shared an Integrated Food Security Phase Classification report that said 100% of the Gazan population is facing a hunger crisis, and though Gazans are facing varying levels of hunger, "virtually all households are skipping meals every day."

Hamas officials have previously called on the World Health Organization to declare the Gaza Strip a "famine zone." Some people in northern Gaza have told ABC News they're using bird feed in place of flour to stave off starvation.

Since Hamas' unprecedented surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, more than 29,954 people have been killed in Gaza and more than 70,325 others have been injured, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. More than 1,200 people have been killed in Israel since Oct. 7, according to the Israeli Prime Minister's Office. Israeli officials say 576 IDF soldiers have been killed, including 237 since the ground operations in Gaza began.

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High-level migration meeting between US, Mexico, Guatemala to result in 'several important announcements,' officials say

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(WASHINGTON) -- A meeting between top representatives from the United States, Mexico and Guatemala on Wednesday will result in "several important announcements" about "commitments for deeper cooperation" on managing migration between the countries involved, according to senior Biden administration officials.

Officials said those announcements would include a joint statement that showcases "our joint commitment to further trilateral cooperation on migration and related matters;" Guatemala hosting the next Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection ministerial meeting in April; and the creation of a U.S.-Mexico-Guatemala operational cell to jointly tackle migration issues, which was described by one official as "a working group that will share best practices and focus on ways that we can again enhance our already strong collaboration with both governments -- bring it all together so that we are working seamlessly across all three governments."

One official said Wednesday's meeting would cover "issues related to economic development, border enforcement, labor mobility pathways and orderly humane irregular migration in the region," with key agenda items including collaboration to address the root causes of irregular migration; opportunities to "deepen our trilateral efforts to expand legal pathways, including labor migration pathways;" joint commitments to strengthen the management of irregular migration flows; and coordination on future ministerial level meetings related to migration.

Officials also defended the Biden administration's efforts to address the root causes of migration, but acknowledged it was "certainly a long-term effort that requires lots of work from throughout the U.S. government, throughout international organizations, foundations and otherwise" -- citing Guatemala's democratic transition as an example of success.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will host Wednesday's meeting with his Mexican and Guatemalan counterparts in Washington, D.C. Blinken, joined by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and other high-level U.S. officials, "will lead a discussion focused on actions to strengthen humane migration management, joint collaboration to address the root causes of irregular migration and displacement, and ways to expand lawful pathways in the Western Hemisphere," according to the State Department.

The meeting comes as President Joe Biden prepares to make his second trip to the U.S.-Mexico border on Thursday in another push for Congress to pass a bipartisan immigration deal, which includes changes to asylum protocols, funding to bolster immigration review and hire additional Border Patrol agents as well as new emergency powers for officials.

Biden, a Democrat who is running for reelection this year, last visited his country's southern border in January 2023 after facing immense criticism from Republicans for not going there as migrant encounters reached a record high in December.

ABC News' Morgan Winsor contributed to this report.

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Rhino poaching on the rise in South Africa, new figures show

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(PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA) -- Rhino poaching increased in South Africa in 2023, the government said.

The new data, released by South African officials, shows 2023 saw a total of 499 Rhinos poached across the Southern African nation, an increase of 51 from to the previous year.

"During 2023, 499 rhinos were poached across South Africa, 406 were killed on state properties and 93 on privately owned parks/reserves/farms," announced Barbara Creecy, South Africa's minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.

"The pressure again has been felt in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province with Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park facing the brunt of poaching cases losing 307 of the total national poaching loss. This is the highest poaching loss within this province," said Creecy.

Conservationists warn poaching syndicates have shifted their focus to KwaZulu-Natal province, where a total of 325 rhinos were killed in 2023. That's "more than triple the number of deaths from two years prior and the highest ever recorded in this province," says the International Rhino Foundation (IRF).

In a statement sent to ABC News, the IRF says the new statistics are a "stark reminder of the reality rhinos still face in the wild."

South Africa is home to the world's largest rhino population, with approximately 80% and 33% of the world's 16,800 white and 6,500 black rhinos respectively, according to IRF figures.

But the latest figures also show South Africa's Kruger National Park -- the nation's largest -- once a hotspot for poaching, saw a decrease in poaching. The new data shows 78 Rhinos were poached there in 2023, a 3.7% decrease from 2022.

"The decrease seen in Kruger's poaching numbers is commendable, but to see that progress cancelled out elsewhere in South Africa is devastating," said Nina Fascione, executive director of the IRF.

Officials say they are working regionally and transnationally to combat poaching and wildlife trafficking, handing down verdicts in 36 cases, 35 of which resulted in guilty verdicts.

"The cases resulted in the conviction of 45 accused rhino poachers/rhino horn traffickers with a conviction rate of 97%," said Creecy.

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UC Santa Barbara student body president allegedly targeted with 'antisemitic' signs on campus

Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

(SANTA BARBARA, C.A.) -- The student body president at the University of California, Santa Barbara is calling out alleged antisemitism on campus after she says she was targeted in unauthorized signs displayed at the university's multicultural center.

Reports of antisemitism and Islamophobia have flooded universities across the U.S. amid rising tensions over the Israel-Hamas war, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Tessa Veksler, a fourth-year student at the university and student body president, shared photos of the signs, with several including her by name, and wrote, "I do not feel safe on campus," in an Instagram post Monday.

The messages on the signs included "Tessa Veksler supports genocide," "Zionists not welcome" and "You can run but you can't hide Tessa Veksler," her post showed.

"How can Jewish students feel safe when they see a Jewish leader being explicitly targeted? This is dehumanizing and rooted in antisemitism," Veksler wrote on Instagram. "This incident is not an isolated event but rather a culmination of neglecting to adequately address the implications of such speech and actions within our university."

UC Santa Barbara's Office of the Chancellor released a statement to the campus community Monday, saying the messaging was in "violation of our principles of community and inclusion."

"The signage has been removed and the campus is conducting a bias incident review based on potential discrimination related to protected categories that include religion, citizenship, and national or ethnic origin," the statement said.

Veksler and the multicultural center have not responded to ABC News' request for comment.

Michael V. Drake, President of the University of California, provided one-time funding to help UC campuses address and combat antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of bias, bigotry, and discrimination, according to the statement.

UC Berkeley Hillel, an on-campus Jewish Organization, addressed a protest that broke out Monday when an Israeli speaker, Ron Bar-Yoshafat, came to Zellerbach Playhouse.

The organization condemned the protest that allegedly resulted in broken windows and heightened tensions.

"Breaking windows, intimidating students and inciting a mob are never acceptable and have no place in civil discourse," the organization said in a statement posted to Instagram.

College campuses around the country have grappled with the fallout from conflicting views on the Israel-Hamas war since the surprise terrorist attack by Hamas in Israel on Oct. 7 in which at least 1,200 were killed, according to Israeli officials. In the Gaza Strip, at least 29,878 people have been killed by Israeli forces since Oct. 7, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights is investigating at least 58 universities for complaints that included both antisemitic and anti-Muslim harassment, including at Harvard University, Northwestern University, Yale University, Brown University, Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Last week, Harvard University officials denounced a cartoon deemed antisemitic after it was posted and then deleted on social media by a student group collective.

In January, a group of Jewish students at Harvard filed a federal lawsuit claiming the school has "become a bastion of rampant anti-Jewish hatred and harassment" and alleging the administration has failed to protect them.

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Pope Francis visits Rome's Gemelli hospital for tests, returns to Vatican

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(ROME) -- Pope Francis on Wednesday visited Rome's Gemelli hospital following his general audience at the Vatican, the Vatican said.

"After the general audience Pope Francis went to the Gemelli Isola Tiberina Hospital for some diagnostic tests," a Vatican official said. "Afterwards, he returned to the Vatican."

During his weekly appearance earlier in the day, Francis said he "still had a bit of a cold." He asked one of his bishops to do a reading.

Francis, 87, had been admitted to the hospital several times last year. He had bronchitis in March and had intestinal surgery in early June, the Vatican said at the time.

Francis is scheduled on Saturday, March 2, to meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, followed on Sunday by an appearance at a noontime prayer, according to the Vatican.

The pope's official X account posted a message on Wednesday after his visit to the hospital.

"In this time of #Lent, let us strive not to put ourselves at the centre; rather, let us try to step aside to make room for others, to promote them, and to rejoice in their qualities and successes," the account said.

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Russian hackers using 'compromised' internet routers for cyber operations, US, international law enforcement warn

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(WASHINGTON) -- Federal and international law enforcement are warning of Russian cyber actors using "compromised" internet routers for cyber operations.

Russian state-sponsored hackers are exploiting Ubiquiti EdgeRouters and using their default credentials to break into them, the FBI and its international partners warned in a cyber alert dated Feb. 27.

"The U.S. Department of Justice, including the FBI, and international partners recently disrupted a GRU botnet consisting of such routers," the alert says. "However, owners of relevant devices should take the remedial actions described below to ensure the long-term success of the disruption effort and to identify and remediate any similar compromises."

The FBI says the routers are very popular for consumers and cyber criminals alike.

The Russian cyber actors, who are known collectively as APT28, have exploited various industries, including aerospace and defense, education, energy and utilities, governments, hospitality, manufacturing, oil and gas, retail, technology and transportation, according to officials.

Targeted countries have included Czech Republic, Italy, Lithuania, Jordan, Montenegro, Poland, Slovakia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and the U.S., the alert said.

It is believed APT28 is the primary Russian group hacking into the routers, but there are other Russian groups as well.

"Additionally, the actors have strategically targeted many individuals in Ukraine," the alert says.

The FBI urges consumers to update the devices as soon as they get them in order to not be compromised.

"Ubiquiti EdgeRouters have a user-friendly, Linux-based operating system that makes them popular for both consumers and malicious cyber actors. EdgeRouters are often shipped with default credentials and limited to no firewall protections to accommodate wireless internet service providers (WISPs). Additionally, EdgeRouters do not automatically update firmware unless a consumer configures them to do so," the alert says.

"In summary, with root access to compromised Ubiquiti EdgeRouters, APT28 actors have unfettered access to Linux-based operating systems to install tooling and to obfuscate their identity while conducting malicious campaigns."

A Ubiquiti representative didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

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'The worst situation I've ever seen': Aid workers reveal conditions of those living in Gaza

Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images

(GAZA) -- For the last 25 years, pediatrician Dr. John Kahler has participated in humanitarian aid missions around the world from Syria to Haiti to Tanzania.

Despite providing medical services for years, Kahler said treating people in Gaza amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war is incomparable to the work he's done in other areas.

"This is just by far the worst situation I've ever seen," he told ABC News. "The desperation is just beyond belief. All the children I saw were sick. All the children I saw were living in the cold, irrespective of whether intended or not."

As the humanitarian crisis in Gaza grows, aid workers from several organizations have been deployed to help those in the strip and the surrounding area.

Medical staff who have returned from deployments spoke with ABC News about the poor hygiene conditions and inadequate water supply that have led to the spread of infections and diseases, children being disproportionately affected and often seemingly small injuries proving fatal.

Children suffering from breathing problems, intestinal infections
Since the early days of the conflict, women and children have borne the brunt both in mass casualties and in reduced access to health services, according to multiple United Nations agencies.

Kahler is a co-founder of the nonprofit MedGlobal, which has been conducting aid missions in Gaza. At the organization's clinic in the southern city of Rafah, Kahler said staff saw 600 to 700 patients a day, about 200 of whom were children, mostly under 6 months old.

He said there were outbreaks of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that often led to a wheezing illness called bronchiolitis in the youngest patients. He also saw children with breathing problems due to smoke, because fire is the only form of heating for many families living in tents.

"One hundred percent of the children under 6 months of age had a diarrheal illness," he said. "The vast majority of those children had significant diaper dermatitis and you say 'diaper dermatitis' and it sounds relatively benign. But, in this particular situation, with no Pampers access, no clean water access, no hygiene access, In the cold, it can be a very, very difficult situation to deal with."

His co-worker, Dr. Zaher Sahloul, president and co-founder of MedGlobal and a critical care specialist in Chicago, said he recalled a few children who came into the clinic, one being a 4-year-old girl name Lama.

According to Sahloul, Lama had been living in a tent with 15 other members of her family and had bloody diarrhea. He said Kahler examined her and gave her oral rehydration fluids, which improved her condition.

"Unfortunately, among innocent civilians, especially children, the impact of the war on children is probably something that we haven't seen, I haven't seen, in any other place."

Lack of aid and poor hygiene

Amy Leah Potter, nursing activity manager for the Doctors Without Borders or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) emergency team in Gaza, said some of the biggest issues she saw during her month-long deployment were poor hygiene conditions and inadequate water and sanitation.

"The hygiene conditions are deplorable, through no fault of the population," she told ABC News. "It's overcrowded, multiple people living in tents; there is no running water, there's no proper drainage."

These conditions often lead to sicknesses including gastrointestinal illnesses and skin infections, Potter said.

Potter estimated at the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, where she crossed into Gaza, there were about 2,000 aid trucks lined up to enter Gaza, but with only about 100 entering per day and some periods with no aid entering at all.

Israel, supported by Egypt, has restricted the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza since Hamas came to power in 2007. The restrictions have tightened since the war began with Israel saying it is trying to limit Hamas' access to weapons, officials said.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said Israel does not provide enough authorization to deliver sufficient aid and, even when it does give authorization, the fighting makes it difficult to deliver aid.

"This is a desert so there's no fresh water," Potter said. "You have to get it from water distribution points, which are just trucks that drive up and then people queue for several hours to try and get water. But if you queue for water, that means you're probably missing the queue for medicine that day or the queue for food. So you kind of have to make decisions."

Temperatures in Gaza are also extremely cold. Potter said she was wearing four layers at a time during her first two weeks there. However, most families do not have as many clothes and sleep in poorly constructed tents, exposing themselves to the elements and the risk of smoke inhalation or injuries from the fires used to keep themselves warm.

"Every day it got worse and worse and worse, more and more tents," Potter said. "When I first came, there were no tents on the beach, because the winds are so strong, you wouldn't want to put a tent there. By the end [of the month-long deployment], the beach was full. There's nowhere to put anybody."

Treating injuries with limited supplies

Dr. Chandra Hassan, a general surgeon in Chicago who volunteers with MedGlobal, worked in Rafah as well as Khan Younis, another city in southern Gaza.

He said he saw many patients with chronic diseases who didn't have access to medicine. This included diabetic patients who couldn't get access to insulin and dialysis patients, who usually get dialysis three times a week but were getting dialysis once or twice a week at most.

Staff are often left to treat patients with few supplies and little to no room, Hassan said. One patient Hasan said he remembers very well was a pregnant woman who visited the clinic. Pregnant women and new mothers in Gaza in particular have been facing life-threatening challenges to accessing safe care, putting their health and the health of their babies at risk.

"We saw a six-month pregnant woman, completely dehydrated, and we were resuscitating her on a cold floor," he told ABC News. "There is no bed, no mattress, nothing. She came to the emergency room because most of the other services are not available."

Hassan said workers gave her fluids, checked her vital signs and after she reported feeling better, she was discharged. He doesn't know what happened to her after she left the clinic.

He said he saw many patients with injuries from the war. Many of these wounds were small, about two- or three-millimeters long, but because resources are limited and people are often not able to seek care right away, they caused massive damage and proved sometimes fatal.

"These kind of innocent-looking wounds from these missiles could prove deadly," he said in reference to one such patient who Hassan said initially received wound care for his injuries. He came back two days later, his condition having worsened and went into cardiac arrest and died.

"In a normal situation, they would have scanned him, admitted him, observed him. So, a lot of these kinds of injuries from the explosions, they are they are deadly immediately or they have bad consequences even with surgery, or sometimes just the delay is too much. It proves to be fatal," Hassan said.

'No safe place exists'

Nearly every aid worker interviewed by ABC News mentioned that, in past global conflicts, affected populations have been able to leave.

"In most situations, people who are fleeing conflict are able to seek safety and protection, maybe within their own country or maybe outside of their country," Dr. Paul Spiegel, director of the Center for Humanitarian Health at Johns Hopkins University, told ABC News. He spent a month in Cairo supporting the UNRWA's Gaza response. "But in this situation, that so far has not been the case."

In January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would not consider the war over until the Philadelphi Corridor, an 8.7-mile-long narrow strip of land that consists of the border area between Gaza and Egypt, was closed.

Earlier this month Netanyahu said that his government was working on a plan to evacuate people from the city of Rafah in anticipation of an expected ground operation there and despite continued concerns about the ground assault from Israel’s allies.

Sahloul and Hassan said that in their past work in Syria and Ukraine, refugees were either able to flee to neighboring countries or move to safer regions within their own country but, in Gaza, they say there is no safe place.

"When you're wounded, you need good nutrition, you need good rest to recover," Hassan said. "You need a safe place. None of that exists."

They added that many Gazans cannot safely seek shelter at hospitals and health care settings because they have been attacked, a violation of international humanitarian law.

Israel has said it has not conducted targeted attacks against hospitals and claims Hamas misuses hospitals -- operating inside and underneath them in tunnels and using them as command centers as well as to store weapons. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has released videos it claims are evidence of Hamas operations. Hamas denies the accusations.

Both Sahloul and Hassan worked in the partially operating hospitals in Rafah, such as Nasser Hospital, and said they did not see any evidence of Hamas operations.

"We have not seen any signs of militarization, any suspects, any guns in the hospital ... we have not seen any tunnels," Sahloul said. "There might be some truth to what the IDF are saying, but we have not witnessed it. And people in the hospitals should not be punished."

Fears of a 'complete collapse'

Since the Hamas terrorist group's surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7, more than 29,600 have been killed in Gaza and more than 69,000 others injured, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health. In Israel, at least 1,200 people have been killed, according to the Israeli Prime Minister's Office.

Israeli officials said 576 IDF soldiers have been killed, including 237 since the ground operations in Gaza began.

Additionally, there are about 134 hostages still believed to be in captivity in Gaza, 130 of them related to the current war and four related to the 2014 conflict. Of the 134, at least 32 are believed to be dead, according to the IDF and the Israeli Prime Minister's Office.

Potter said she believes conditions in Gaza will only further deteriorate and the number of deaths will increase unless a cease-fire is agreed to.

"We're not even putting a dent in what's needed," Potter said. "If we don't get [more] aid into the country, if the invasion into Rafah continues, and there's one and a half million people, there's nowhere left to go. There's nothing left to do."

"It is just trying to survive. It's like it's a boat with a hole in it and this isn't the time to fix the boat. This is the time to just bail the water as fast as you can, but they've been bailing for months, with no end in sight. And eventually, there's going to be a complete collapse," she continued.

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